Cryotherapy: The ‘coolest’ new trend in wellness
Imagine exposing your bare skin to sub-zero temperatures. Sounds extreme, right? Cooling down, de-stressing and improving metabolism are definitely not the things you would associate with braving temperatures as low as ‑200 degree Fahrenheit. That is until you have heard of the benefits of Cryotherapy, a new wellness trend that is all the rage in the world of glamour and sports.
What is Cryotherapy?
Derived from the Greek word ‘krous’, the word cyro literally means ice or frost, and cryotherapy, thus, refers to the practice of healing the body by subjecting it to extremely cold temperatures in a controlled environment.
The concept of cryotherapy dates back to 1978, when it was first used in Japan to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Its benefits have since been debated and analyzed as part of several medical research studies. This therapy is widely practiced in Japan and parts of Europe.
Cryotherapy can be divided into categories – localized cryotherapy and whole body cryotherapy. While cryotherapy in its localized form is already popular the world over, it is the concept of whole body cryotherapy that has recently caught the fancy of wellness experts and celebrities in the West.
Let’s try and understand what the hoopla is all about:
This is perhaps the most well-known and long-standing form of cryotherapy. The practice of putting ice packs or cold compresses are used to constrict blood vessels in order to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
Another form of localized cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery, entails using extremely cold substances such as liquid nitrogen to remove lesions such as moles and skin tags by freezing them. This process is also used to treat medical conditions such as prostate cancer.
Whole Body Cryotherapy
When one talks about cryotherapy as a wellness trend, the focus is mainly on whole body cryotherapy. Whole body cryotherapy involves exposing the entire body to sub-zero temperature (typically ‑200 degrees Fahrenheit) for a short spell, ranging from two to four minutes.
The therapy is performed in a controlled environment, wherein the recipient has to enter a tank or chamber where sub-zero temperatures are maintained wither through the use of refrigerated cold air or liquid nitrogen.
The individual receiving whole body cryo wear minimal clothing (shorts for men and a crop top and knickers of women is considered ideal), in order to expose maximum skin surface to the blast of cold air.
However, wearing gloves, socks, a mouth and nose mask, and woolen covers for the ears is recommended to avoid cold-related injuries such as frost bite or hypothermia.
Benefits of Cryotherapy
The theory behind whole body cryotherapy is that exposing the body to extreme cold causes blood vessels to constrict and as soon as the body is introduced to its usual environment, it works vigorously to pump blood to different parts of the body.
This process increases the number of nutrients and oxygen supplied throughout the body, thereby initiating the process of healing body tissues. This process is believed to have numerous health benefits. Of these, the top ones remain:
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving Sleep
- Improving Skin Tone
- Defying Aging
- Increasing Body’s metabolic rate
- Glowing skin due to increased blood flow
- Burning extra calories
Celebrities Going the Cryo Way
Given the many professed benefits of cryotherapy, the list of celebrities practicing this wellness trend is rather long. Younger looking skin, better sleep, improved metabolism all packed in a single treatment.
What more can a person in public life ask for! The many Hollywood A-listers and elite athlete who are believed to use whole body cryotherapy include LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Many Moore, Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Kate Moss and the Dallas Mavericks.
Soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo is said to travel with his personal cryotherapy chamber. Rumor has it that the ageless Demi Moore owes her time-defiant charm to cryo as well. Actor Daniel Craig is reported to have relied heavily on whole body cryotherapy to prepare and maintain his body for the James Bond character while shooting for Skyfall. In fact, Cryotherapy remained one of the most preferred restoratives therapies adopted by athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics as well.
Despite many wellness experts and practitioners swearing by the health benefits of cryotherapy, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still does not recognize it as a medical treatment. The chorus around the potential risks of whole body cryotherapy grew in wake of death of a salon worker in 2015 after she entered a cryotherapy chamber unsupervised.
Frost bite, loss of consciousness due to lack of oxygen, burns, and hypothermia and even death in case the cryo chamber is not controlled by trained experts, are the potentially well-known risks of cryotherapy.
Besides, this therapy is not recommended in the following conditions – pregnancy, severe hypertension, symptomatic cardiovascular disease, cold allergy, venous thrombosis, bleeding disorders, severe anemia, symptomatic lung disorders, seizures, and acute kidney and urinary tract diseases, among others.